Understanding Recovery Time Objective (RTO) In DR Planning

Recovery Time Objective (RTO) - Overview

Recovery Time Objective (RTO) is defined as the maximum acceptable length of time an application can be down or the maximum tolerable outage the organization endures without causing significant damage to a business after a disaster, failure, or any unacceptable event occurs.

As defined within the service level agreement, RTO times suggests the time promised to recover and finish system restore from a failed system to up and running. The service level objective accounts for the recovery time set by the organization to recover/restore its mission-critical IT processes/operations to normal from the point-in-time a disaster occurs. This ensures business continuity.

What Is Recovery Time Objective (RTO)?

Recovery Time Objective is a targeted duration time wherein applications, systems, and/or processes survive a downtime and are non-functioning before the disruption begins. The RTO is of paramount importance to determine the length of time to prioritize applications and processes within the RTO parameters. In the data protection plan and disaster recovery strategy, RTO answers the question, “what is the target time established for services restoration after a service disruption notification?”

RTOs can determine:

  • What’s the real-time duration you set to recover a site from the point in time the incident interrupts the normal flow of operations until restored

  • What IT preparations should be designed for implementing the disaster recovery plan

  • What is the acceptable level of risk of data loss, when the system or key applications goes offline

How to Calculate the Recovery Time Objective for Disaster Recovery Planning?

An RTO metric sets the target expectation for the IT team in advance as it determines the threshold as to how quickly the system or application can be recovered after the downtime and bring your system back online. After defining this measure in terms of the amount of “real-time” to restore the system, you can then plan your recovery strategy to get the service operational again. To calculate RTO, you must consider the losses associated with a break in the (BCP) Business Continuity Plan recovery time objective along with business impact analysis that explains the short-term or long-term effects of business interruption of services. This includes risks, lost revenue, expenses, customer-facing applications, mission-critical applications, and less-priority applications that are affected or will become unavailable. RTO is more concerned with the downtime and time limitations for the data recovery process.

To work out an RTO, you might need multiple RTO categories because certain outages might not need much recovery time, while some might require different long-term protection solutions. For example, for less mission-critical applications (not used frequently) the RTO might be much longer. Also, based on the levels of complexities of multiple security systems in operation and data priority, you might have to set the RTO value for times when the application or security system is in operation (short interval replication interval), and RTO values when you resort to long interval backup. This might happen due to a ransomware event or some other massive catastrophe incident.

While calculating RTO or the business recovery time objective, consider these factors:

  • Cost/benefit equation for recovery solutions

  • Priority applications of individual systems and data

  • Steps to be taken by the IT departments based on the processes, automated techniques, or technologies to restore the IT infrastructure

  • Outage and mitigation cost

  • The complexity of the recovery procedure

RTO Sample Intervals

The measurement of RTO is a time of survival after the damage has been identified. Achieving a near-zero RTO is costly for most IT enterprises, but it’s possible to achieve if you are prioritizing applications and data. For less business-critical applications, the RTO clock might consume longer objective times than usual. Near-zero RTO plans for mission-critical applications might require you to consider immediate failover capability.

Depending on the severity of the outage, you can set the achievable target RTO time or the time to recovery objective. However, the RTOs restoration time also depends on the limitations of the IT organization. For example, if restoring all the IT functions and operations takes 3 hours, the RTO must be at least 3 hours.

Note: From the disaster recovery (DR) perspective, the RTO clock starts right when the recovery process starts.

As you calculate RTO (Recovery Time Objective) for your business units, consider these sample intervals:

1 Hour: This interval is for redundant data backup on external hard drives.

5 Days: In this case, the most cost-effective solution would be backing up data using compact disk, tape, or offsite disk storage.

Recovery Time Objective Examples

Since the RTO defines how much time is needed to get the workload back online for mission-critical applications, the potential revenue impact could be huge. So, you should always aim to attain the lowest possible RTO to minimize the impact of a disaster. To determine your RTO, you must first identify the impact of the length of duration on your business in which the data is unavailable.

For example:

  • 10% of data must be available within 24 hours

  • After a complete loss of the database, 50% of data must be available within 2 days.

  • The remaining 50% of data must be available within the next 5 days.

Your total RTO = 8 days.

To cite another example:

Suppose the Exchange Server is down. If your RTO is set at 5 hours, this means that the maximum tolerable downtime your business can survive is 5 hours, and your RTO for the Exchange Server must be less than 5 hours. Your disaster recovery policy must include the necessary steps taken by the IT department to backup and restore the data.

While setting the time to recovery objective, there’s no one-size-fit solution for a business continuity plan. RTOs as a point-in-time in the future can be set to recover data after the disaster strikes. However, should an incident occur, the real-life practicalities of your disaster recovery plan also depend on certain tools and technology employed to provide recovery. So, the ability to hit RTO varies as different technologies and DR tools vary in their capabilities. RTO is measured even before the outage has begun and includes the time taken to repair the servers, installing priority applications, and restore data. It also includes the methods of recovery and the backed-up data that needs to be recovered.

RTO, the Zmanda Way

RTO is an incredibly important goal and the foundation of a recovery plan. But, even though you have designed for the RTO time limit, sometimes, the outages, their causes, and different circumstances make it challenging to meet an attainable recovery and achieve business continuity. In this case, how do you determine the series of steps of practical recovery objectives? This is where we can help.

Achieve Continuous Availability

With Zmanda’s DRaaS plan and custom SLAs, no matter the size of your business, we can help you shorten outage times and avoid the pain of downtime depending on your business needs. Apart from hybrid backups to support the transition and achieving relatively faster RTOs, our enterprise solution combines Amazon Glacier with a 20X lower-cost of long-term data archival that deploys a robust high availability and ensures business continuity.

Our enterprise backup solution unifies backup, disaster recovery, and long-term storage archiving specifically tailored to clients’ needs. AWS Deep Archive solution equips you with more storage capacity of workloads that provide security, reliability, scalability, and availability while recovering your environment even at times of total server failure event.

Zmanda’s secure client gateway access support Secure Socket Layers (SSL) and layered security, you can move your data to a backup site in seconds without worrying about TTL-related delays. In addition, to protect access and enhance data protection, the SSL certificates establish a secure connection to allow communication between remote clients and the cloud gateways. Zmanda customers can meet stringent RTO requirements with a streamlined approach to recovery and restore using multiple RTO/RPO options based on the applications that you prioritize.

If you are worried about costly data loss and have questions about how to protect your business from disaster, visit our DR solutions page to learn more or contact us to speak with one of our experts!